My first experience in South Africa was at the Kapama Private Game Reserve – River Lodge. It was an excellent choice for our introduction into this very special lifetime experience of going on safari.
We arrived at Hoedspruit airport about 2pm and where else do you get picked up at the airport in an open safari vehicle! Awesome! Every time you come and go from the lodge you are on safari, we saw many animal sightings every time we went to an activity, another lodge or to/from the airport. Even on the airport runway there were vervet monkeys. The small Hoedspruit (Eastgate) airport reminded me of some of the small airports in Hawaii or the South Pacific.
When you check into the lodge it is very common to sit in big comfy sofas as a member of the reception staff explains the safari schedule, the meal schedule, activities and generally how things work. Then they give you your keys to your suite, tent or often a thatched chalet. I was travelling with my sister, as we were taking a short vacation before we met our group in Cape Town and lead a trip across South Africa. During this meeting at Kapama we were mixed in with a large group from the USA who were only staying for one night. My horror, I was so thankful we were at this beautiful place for 4 glorious days. I guess 1 night is better than nothing but you really need a minimum of 3 nights to fully soak in where you are and the magic and the atmosphere and all the things these types of lodges have for you to do. We did find out later that they could only come for 1 night due to bookings, so book early to not be disappointed. The Kapama River Lodge is the largest lodge in the greater Kruger area, it seemed to be full to capacity, especially at safari time and dinner time when everyone gathered. Otherwise, it was so spread out that even though it was full or near full it was quiet seemed empty. River Lodge has about 64 rooms and spa suites, even though it is large by safari lodge standards it is still less than 150 guests max.
SAFARI: All of our Safaris with Kapama were nothing short of magic. Even while we were driving around I would be thinking to myself…”this is unbelievable”. Our ranger was Harry and our tracker was Eric. Harry was our protector, you always felt you were in very capable hands yet, he is probably one of the most gentle souls I have ever met. Eric was fun and very cute more of a character! They were a fantastic team. On the usual safari activities we saw tons of wildlife and at least one excellent sighting, such as a female Lion & her cubs nursing, or being surrounded by a herd of active elephants and then the ever so sought after lions actively hunting! This is why you need a few days. Three nights give you 6 game drives (one in the morning and one at night). You certainly have the possibility of seeing the Big 5 (Lions, Leopards, Rhinos, Cape Buffalo & Elephant) as well as lots of birds, giraffe, zebra. Being there at the end of November and into December brought especially rich bird sightings and tons of babies of all the mammals. It is greener and there more foliage at this time of year but the animal babies were amazing. Each season has its pros and cons. The safari vehicles were open with a possible 10 seats, on some game drives we did have a full vehicle. We were very lucky to have great safari mates that made sure everyone could see, take photos at the sightings and rotate seats. Harry also made sure each side of the vehicle got a good sighting at each photo op (which seemed to be every 2 minutes!).
ROOMS: I find that right away I can walk into a hotel room and either feel, excited, impressed, immediately comfortable, let down or eck! When I walked in I was somewhere between excited and immediately comfortable. Exactly where I wanted to be after the long flight from Canada. The room was classic safari with lots of wood trim, stone floors and a big leather club chair by two large doors leading to the terrace where a family of Nyala (antelope) were grazing peacefully outside our door, nice! The beds were my ever so appreciated white puffy duvets and two large pocket doors led into the huge bathroom. Where there was a large glass shower stall, separate loo, two sinks, a huge soaker tub in front of a picture window that you could open up to have only screens. Thank you for this room…. It was always nice to come home to.
FOOD: Meals were plentiful and meal time was never a long wait at Kapama. Our dining ‘Ranger’ was Amos and he was a true gem. He was so attentive, friendly and always was there to specially greet me into the dining room. He will always make me smile when I think of him and look at his picture. He is a great ambassador for Kapama. The venues were both very nice. There was an outdoor boma (barbeque) dining room as well as a beautiful main dining room that had both indoor and outdoor seating. Both had the true African feeling you are looking for on safari in terms of décor and were also always clean and appetizing. The food was high quality, delicious and a good amount of choice without being so daunting that you over ate if you wanted to try most items (a usual buffet disadvantage). I tried my first warthog, bobotie and pap. The fresh breads and soups were also worth a special note. All of our meals were served buffet style, but again, they were nicely done and excellent quality and choice. Usually buffet is not something I enjoy and I did enjoy the meals at Kapama.
ACTIVITIES: There lots of activities that could keep energetic guests very busy. We didn’t get to the spa or even the pool but we did take advantage of Camp Jabulani and the endangered species centre. Camp Jabulani is an on-site centre where you can go meet African elephants! Yes, the mighty and beautifully huge African elephants! You can use one of your game drive mornings and do your safari from the heights of elephant back!! This was a splurge but worth every penny. The elephants there are gorgeous and very well looked after. They were all orphaned or rescued from negative situations. They explain all about how the camp started at the safari orientation and ‘meet the elephants’ part of the morning.
Everyone was at least middle aged like me and up in age so it is not just for the young. A few guests had bad knees and had slight mobility disadvantages and they were up on those elephants enjoying this chance of a lifetime. The elephants had very nice purpose built saddles and they were very comfortable for us to sit atop, they had stirrups for stability and handles to hold onto. There were two guests plus a handler on each elephant. They brought them around to a platform where these absolutely huge elephants were loaded and then you were off. The ride was at least an hour.
It was about a 20 min drive to get there from River Lodge. We were lucky to have an off-duty Ranger ‘Jacks’ to drive us, as we had to go during our usual game drive time so Harry was occupied, and Jacks showed us many great general mammal, bird and insect sightings on the way. Any guest would be so lucky to have him as a Ranger as well. He was extremely passionate about the safari experience and full of descriptive stories. If he was your ranger you would have a truly amazing experience.
While at Kapama, they were very hospitable and showed us around to the other lodges in this private game reserve, they were the; the small and intimate Buffalo camp, serene Southern Camp and the newest & exquisite Karula Lodge. They were all fantastic and fit into different demographics perfectly. These three lodges were probably located more into the game-rich areas of the huge reserve, so animal sightings directly from these lodges were very possible and we saw some even during our short visits.
We were very happy at our home at Kapama River Lodge. For our needs and this trip Kapama River Lodge was the perfect choice for two single girls looking for adventure. It was my first safari experience in Africa and it was absolutely amazing. Everyone was enjoying themselves. The food, rooms, public spaces and full safari experience was all at an equal high (5 star) standard. Some of the other game reserved we visited (fenced and unfenced) during our trip to South Africa had better points as well as lower points so I give them 5/5 for the best all-round safari experience of the four lodges we visited on this trip. You won’t be disappointed. Thanks Mandy and Harry and all our favorites at Kapama River Lodge! We will return.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Kapama River Lodge is situated within Kapama Game Reserve, and presents the perfect blend between luxurious safari accommodation and a generous bed capacity of 64 bedrooms. Although large, it is so stylish, roomy and beautifully positioned along a dry riverbed, that guests fall in love with it. Each spacious room at Kapama River Lodge features a full en-suite bathroom and terrace with uninterrupted views into the leafy-green Big 5 game reserve. The central guest entertainment areas include a large rim-flow swimming pool with sun umbrellas and recliners for lazy afternoons. The long L-shaped relaxation lounge and bar under a double-volume thatch, curves around the pool and on either side is a huge double-sided fireplace creating a wondrous open-plan yet cosy atmosphere. The Rhino Boma dining area with tables arranged under a low thatch in a horseshoe curve, has a central open space where a roaring outdoor fire gives a glow to evening meals. Buffet-style meals introduce African flavours with Pan African dishes using fresh local ingredients and specialist dishes. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Kapama River Hotel Kapama Private Game Reserve
- Kapama River Lodge Kapama Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa